What if there was only one grocery store?
You go to the store every week and gather up your family groceries. One week, you find that costs have gone up 400%.
That gallon of milk your kids need for their breakfast is now $18.
Or worse yet, there’s no milk at all.
That is what can happen if you’re dependent on a single marketing channel for your business. Performance volatility has always been a part of the digital marketing landscape, but in the last 12 months, we’ve seen major events that have altered the playing field. GDPR, Cambridge Analytica, platform updates, outages, and algorithmic changes have changed the game for advertisers, making it more risky than ever to focus on just one channel.
If you are advertising online, it’s safe to say you’re either advertising on Google or Facebook, or both.
This digital duopoly accounts for nearly 60% of all digital ad spending in the US, giving these companies incredible leverage over advertisers. (Source: eMarketer)
And while most of the changes they make to their platforms are designed to improve the user experience, this doesn’t always align with their advertiser’s goals. Mandatory Campaign Bid Optimization (CBO) from Facebook is an example of the power they have to change the platform in a way that may not benefit all advertisers. Relying on one channel puts all your business eggs in one digital basket, making you beholden to changes in Facebook’s algorithm or targeting changes, or sweeping industry changes, like Google’s decision last year to ban all ads from addiction treatment centers.
More frequent changes in technology - Ad tech is evolving faster than ever before, making it crucial to not only stay on top of those changes, but to prepare in the event those changes don’t benefit your business. The privacy concerns raised by the Cambridge Analytica scandal caused Facebook, along with other ad platforms, to limit targeting options using data pulled from third-party data providers such as Acxiom, Epsilon and Oracle. These targeting options had been a key tool for many advertisers, and with little notice, they were no longer available. Recent rumors are trending in a similar direction, with talk of Facebook allowing users to remove a lot of their trackable history, making targeting even more challenging. Without having a choice of channels, these types of changes can do great damage to your business.
Speaking of changes, Andrew Chen’s Law of Shitty Clickthroughs is a great explanation of the challenges of decaying ad channels and tactics and the importance to identify new opportunities.
James Currier of the NFX has a great visual illustrating the evolution of marketing channels.
Most marketing channels go through an “S curve” courting innovative early adopters, then everyone rushes into the party increasing cost, competition, saturation, and ad fatigue. There comes a point in every lifecycle where a marketer or brand needs to start looking elsewhere.
This is a big reason why we help brands with Partner / Affiliate Marketing. It’s a paid channel that allows brands to get exposure through a variety of methods (content sites, apps, deal sites, reviews, shopping comparison, cashback/loyalty, and influencers) often on a pay per action basis. We recruit, activate, optimize and manage partners and measuring them often on a Cost Per Purchase (CPA) basis rather than an upfront cost. In general, it is a slower moving channel than Paid Social and Display / Programmatic, but it can often yield a higher ROI for advertisers managing their program effectively.
Go where your customers are - Customers don’t live their lives on a single site, so why advertise to them that way. Your audience lives on multiple channels. They’re at different stages of the buying process. In many cases, ad creative can be resized and rebuilt to work on another channel without major design delays. Not so shameless plug, don’t worry, we got you covered for all copy, creative, and video ads. Why not reach your audience on another platform in a different way and drive them further down the road to conversion.
More Data to analyze - There are few things we at RBL like more than data. We have tested most available reporting tools like Google DataStudio, Adobe, Looker, MixPanel, Excel, and Tableau. Diversifying your channel mix gives you more data and allows you to compare notes between audiences on different channels. It also provides even more testing opportunities to help you understand your customer better. Do carousel style ads work best on all platforms or just Facebook? I don’t know, but I think you should test it.
More Volume - All channels will reach a point of diminishing returns. We have experienced this as both In-house marketers and client partners. It’s no fun. Due to factors like fatigue, total addressable market, platform, competition, product-channel fit, seasonality, and other factors your budget can hit a wall and no longer get the same reach, engagement, or conversion. Before you get to that point, test additional channels that can complement what you’re currently doing and add volume without increasing your CPA. Will Pinterest be able to deliver more sales than Facebook? Probably not, but it can add additional volume at a similar if not lower CPA and protect you from instability within your main channel. After all, we don’t care about the channel, we want an overall CPA that beats your goal, right?
Prepare yourself for future market changes - If you have secondary and tertiary channel sources you are better prepared for fluctuations in your primary channel. If a major competitor drives up the competition on your core search keywords, your business does not come crashing to a halt. Facebook goes down for a day, you still have traffic and leads coming in from other sources.
ABT Always Be Testing - This is a principle we live by at RBL and it applies to more than the channel you’re currently on. Testing new channels can yield incredible returns and sometimes in the most unlikely of places. You may uncover strategies and targeting opportunities that would not have thought of on your main channel. Stack rank your channels and test appropriately.
Who gets the credit? When utilizing a multi-channel strategy, make sure you have an attribution model that tells the true story of your customers journey. Last touch attribution is helpful in evaluating the last channel that pushed your customer across the finish line but undervalues all the other steps in the process. Search Engines might be the last step, but it in most cases does not deserve all of the credit. This is especially true for B2B businesses or products that have a long sales cycle. Here are some alternatives for your consideration: first touch, linear model, time decay, position-based, and a customized model.
Ready to go beyond Google & Facebook?
We are testing channels like Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snap, Quora, Reddit and we are seeing some resurgence in offline depending on advertiser and market. Who knows, we just might see you on TikTok soon?